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Jack Welch's Very Golden Years

When a longtime employee retires, it's customary to send him off with a parting gift. A nice watch, perhaps. Maybe a water cooler signed by everyone in the office. Or, if you're former General Electric(NYSE: GE) CEO Jack Welch, a multimillion-dollar pension, a jet, a Manhattan apartment, and various memberships and services.

According to papers filed in divorce court by Welch's estranged wife, these are just some of the perks Welch receives from GE. Want the dirty details? (We knew you would.)

According to the filing, Jack Welch's lifelong benefits include:

  • A $9 million annual pension

  • Twenty-four-hour access to a Boeing 737 owned by GE (a perk valued at $291,869 a month, according to an expert hired by Mrs. Welch)

  • A Central Park apartment (estimated value of $80,000 a month), complete with flowers and food

  • A limited-edition 2003 Mercedes-Benz SLR

  • Tickets to Wimbledon, Red Sox games, the Metropolitan Opera, and access to VIP seats at sporting events broadcast by GE's NBC

  • Cellular phones for five cars

  • Satellite television in four homes

  • Five computers, complete with technical support

  • Dues for three private golf clubs, including Augusta

  • Financial planning and tax services

During his last year with GE, Welch earned $16.2 million. He also holds 22 million shares of GE (which, at $28 a share, is worth $616,000,000). The obvious question is: How much more money does this guy need? And how long should current GE shareholders pay the bills for an ex-employee? (If you invest in index funds that try to match the S&P 500, then GE is your largest "holding," since it has the highest market cap in the index. Therefore, index funds must invest in GE proportionately.)

The company claims it still relies on Welch's services once in a while. So add to the aforementioned compensation an $86,000 annual retainer that covers five working days a year. If Welch provides some consulting beyond that, he gets $17,000 a day.

There's no question that Jack Welch was one of the great CEOs of the late 20th century. He helped build GE into one of the most valuable companies in the world by getting rid of underperforming businesses -- which makes such a generous retirement package so curious.

When does compensation turn from a fair trade for services rendered to naked greed? It's hard to argue that this deal doesn't cross that line.

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